Why Outrage Rules YouTube & The Internet – Wisecrack Edition


What’s up, guys? Jared here. Unless you’re brand new to the internet
you’ve probably encountered some good old fashioned online rage. Like grief at a funeral, happiness at a pizza
party, or humiliation at a bar mitzvah, rage is an emotion that seems to innately belong
on the Internet. Now, I’m definitely not an angry dude but
I’ve succumbed to my small share of Internet rage. In the dark days following the Game of Thrones
finale, I may have ranted over Gchat to anyone who would listen. I may have even come this close to signing
a toothless Internet petition demanding it be remade with better writers. In short, I raged a little. And what did I get out of it? Not much. It didn’t make me feel better or more empowered. I wouldn’t say it was a net benefit for
my life. But who does benefit when we get pissed off
on the Internet? Let’s investigate. Welcome to this Wisecrack Edition on Internet
rage. Of course, rage
on the internet runs the gamut. It’s generally political, but not always. It’s sometimes justified, and oftentimes
not. Sometimes some celebrity has said something
so blood-boiling you need to watch 5 suggested videos about why this person is human trash. Sometimes, someone gave Sonic baby teeth. Now, we have a theory about how rage functions
in the online ecosystem, and like most delightful and/or vaguely upsetting things in the world,
it’s tied up in money. Specifically, we’re looking to philosopher
Peter Sloterdijk’s book, Rage and Time: A Psycho-Political Investigation, which constructs
a history of rage, from Ancient Greece to present day. Sloterdijk starts by arguing that rage is,
at its core, an experience that de-numbs a person, a scalding hot coffee mug for the
soul. In this way, anger is a fundamentally energizing
force, imbuing you with the vigor necessary to seize control of your own life. Like many of our emotions, though, we want
our rage to be recognized or legitimized by someone or something more powerful than ourselves. Rage, in this sense, is an important aspect
of psychopolitics because it is a demand to be seen. Sloterdijk argues, rage ”becomes the momentum
of a movement into the future, which one can understand as the raw material for historical
change.” Rage starts wars, overthrows governments,
and ends unhappy marriages. Rage has manifested differently at various
points in human history. For the ancient Greeks, their Gods sanctioned
their rage by granting them luck in battle. But near the end of ancient history, something
shifted. Collective rage started being seen as a valuable
resource for social manipulation in which collective fits of anger were planned into
existence by powerful dudes with highly-specific motives. Here’s where it’s helpful to start thinking
of rage through an economic lens. Sloterdijk contends that rage should be understood
as an economic resource, of which every person has a finite amount that they can spend in
any number of ways. Of course, since basically the development
of currency, savvy people have opted not to keep their life savings under their mattress
– instead, wisely investing it in banks. Similarly, rage works like an investable monetary
resource you can put in a “rage bank”. The first rage bank, Sloterdijk argues, was
developed by the Catholic church wherein regular folks were asked to “invest” their anger
through bombastic sermons that threatened them with eternal damnation. They accordingly invested all their rage into
the bank of a vengeful God who would come back on the Apocalypse and lash out at all
the nonbelievers. Basically, rather than getting personal revenge
on people who didn’t share their religious views, believers were assured by the church
that, like a trusty wingman with a sick uppercut, God would take care of it for them. Just as a regular bank will hold your money
for you until you need it, so too would the Catholic church hold your rage until the Apocalypse. In this way, rage changed the course of history
by creating an effective way for a power structure, the church, to control the masses. Sloterdijk finds another palpable manifestation
of economic rage that developed in the late 19th century with the rise of Communism. The Communist party tapped into the preexisting
anxiety, resentment, and indeed, rage of the dispossessed poor, telling them that the source
of all their woes lay in the corrupt, brunch-loving bourgeoise. The Communist party very deliberately developed
systems, machinations and operations to produce rage amongst the lower class, harness it,
and funnel it into the revolution. Through propaganda, manifestos, collective
organizing, and lots and lots of red paraphernalia, the Communist party amassed the rage of its
followers, and “invested” it, telling them to funnel all their rage into hating
on AND overthrowing the wealthy, and, especially, the monarchy. In this way, Sloterdijk sees communist leaders
like Lenin and Mao as the first “rage entrepreneurs,” finding savvy ways to invest the rage of the
masses into a cause they could all get behind, and one which would majorly pay off for those
in charge. Here, we see the way rage literally changed
the course of history by triggering revolution, for better or worse. In all of the cases above, rage has had somewhere
to live within a culture. But Sloterdijk argues, in contemporary society,
there’s nowhere to put it. In the past, communities served as repositories
for anger. But nowadays, instead of expressing our rage
at the town market or local square dancing barn party, we’re hyper-individualistic,
sitting at home, with our airpods in, mumbling a brilliant, too-late takedown of that guy
who cut you in line at Chipotle. The point is, solidarity between communities,
religions, and class has faded. Consequently, we as a society have failed
to give our collective rage a proper home. Now remember, the crucial part of satisfying
cathartic rage is “recognition” by something higher than ourselves. As the world gets hyper connected and individualistic,
meaningful recognition becomes an increasingly scarce resource. As a result, a lot more of us feel ignored
or unimportant, and alongside that, sense our rage yielding little recognition, creating
a massive group of people who feel exploited and ignored by those in power. So what happens to rage when we A. have no
collective place to store it and B. are left to experience it on our own without any planned
target for it, or any form of validation from above? I’ll give you a hint: What do angry moms,
angry Star Wars fans, angry neo-Nazis, angry vegans, angry Beyonce lovers, angry ferret
owners, and angry Christmas stans all have in common? They all choose to rage on the Internet! The vacuum created by lack of community is
being filled by the internet, allotting rage to causes ranging from #gamergate to petitions
hating on the Game of Thrones writers. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that high-arousal
emotions, whether positive (like awe at how this nebula looks like it’s hosting a rave
for unicorns)or negative (like anger at the Ghostbusters remake for ruining your childhood)
are far more likely to go viral than low-arousing emotions like sadness, a point demonstrated
by viral content mill Upworthy in this graphic. Rage, in short, is clicky. A brief scan of top headlines over the past
few years indicates an almost rabid-level of anger people are being fed when they check
their newsfeed. From Obama saluting the Marines while “scandalously”
holding his latte to the new Peter Rabbit making light of food allergies, there’s
no shortage of things to be angry about. The problem is: in the absence of a rage bank,
there’s nowhere for us to store our anger. Just as you can view the Catholic Church as
a rage bank, and the Communist Party as a rage entrepreneur, we think it’s helpful
to contextualize each social media platform as a sort of rage “stock exchange,” where
rage is bought, sold, and prospected. Here, let’s go back to Sloterdijk’s explanation
of how any kind of rage economy is formed, in that it is “planned by its agents according
to entrepreneurial criteria and controlled by its managers with long-term oversight.” In the case of YouTube, the “agents” of
this stock market are the platform owners, aka Google bigwigs trying to maximize profit,
with the help of algorithms that will maximize view time. This often means recommending videos that
you will find enraging, because rage=engagement. Individual YouTubers can be seen, like the
leaders of the Communist Party, as rage entrepreneurs, directing users’ rage, laser like towards
specific topics that will keep them watching. However, unlike the Communist Revolution,
there is usually not an identifiable “project” for people to use their rage to actualize;
the only goal on behalf of the entrepreneurs is self-interest – they’re trying to generate
YouTube views, amass Patreon subscriptions, and sometimes, sell apocalypse gift bags. The rage being stirred up is inherently self
perpetuating and fruitless – it’s in the platform’s interest to keep you raging so
you keep consuming more videos. What’s more, all this YouTubing won’t
help a user amass a coherent dream for a “new system” because YouTube is always about
to recommend a new, radical thinker with a newer, radical-er plan to influence you. As a result, you’re investing all this rage
without any hope of return. Now, are we telling you to never watch an
angry YouTube video again? Of course not! But we do think it’s important that everybody
recognize the inherent value of their own rage, both as individuals trying to claim
autonomy over their own lives, and to online opportunists who want to turn them into loyal
flat-earthers. Remember: there is literally a financial incentive,
both for YouTube and for individual creators, to keep you angry, and we’re no exception,
which is why I’m taking this moment to inform you that CleverCrevice doesn’t think Nicolas
Cage deserved an Oscar. But seriously, what do you guys think? Is raging on the Internet emotionally healthy,
totally toxic, or just a harmless indulgence we all deserve from time to time? Is the YouTube algorithm making your rage
impotent, and if so, how do you feel about it? Let us know in the comments. Thanks to all our patrons who support the
channel and our podcasts. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button

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